ING Direct was a little late in finally releasing its paper checks. We had been told that paper checks were going to be released on July 27th, but the release was delayed. I'm happy to report that it's now officially released. You can read all the details about the paper checks at this ING Direct help page.
The info that I was told in July was accurate. You can only order checks directly from ING Direct, and the cost is $5 for a book of 50 paper checks. When you receive the checks in the mail, you have to activate them before using them. If you don't, the checks will be rejected. According to ING Direct, this is done for security reasons:
We take security and privacy very seriously. Activating your checkbook ensures us that you received the checkbook and prevents someone else from writing checks if your checkbook is lost or stolen before you activate it.
"there was enough demand [for paper checks] in the market, unfortunately," says Todd Sandler, ING Direct's head of product strategy. "It's not something that our customers want; it's really something they need. ... Customers begrudgingly feel that they need to have paper checks until the rest of the world catches up."
It's nice to see that ING Direct recognized this need for an occasional paper check. I would prefer if the checks were free like what Ally Bank offers. However, if you keep $100K or more in this account to take advantage of the top rate, you might not mind the $5 fee in exchange for the extra security.
The article also mentioned another recent security addition at ING Direct, its Personal Finance Access Code that can be given to aggregators like Mint.com for read-only access to the account.
In my opinion, it's nice to see ING Direct is focused on security. Hopefully, this will continue as it merges into Capital One.